Design Your Day: My Top 6 Morning Disciplines
I haven’t always been a morning person, but about five years ago, I started a new job that required me to commute an hour each way. Between two hours in the car and working eight hours a day, it took so much of my time away that I became very intentional about dedicating my evenings to relaxing with my husband. I made sure not to insert anything into that time that would take my attention away. That left only one option for some of the other things like reading and working out to be done in the early morning before work. So, I started disciplining myself to wake up earlier to make time for those things that were also important to me.
I’ve remained consistent with that for about 5 years, and now I have to say, I'm addicted to mornings. The early morning is such a peaceful and refreshing environment for unforced focus and productivity.
Because I have grown to love mornings and have seen so much change in myself because of it, I wanted to share with you my top 6 morning disciplines.
1. Waking Up Early
I wake up every weekday morning at 3:45am. Why so early? Because I have so much in my heart I want to accomplish in life and there’s no better time to focus than in the quiet of the morning. I set side this time for a number of reasons:
- I want to be completely ready to walk out the door before my daughter wakes up. I don’t ever want to find myself frantically trying to finish getting ready and cutting into time I could be spending with her. Being a full-time working mom, my time with her is extremely limited, so I have to make sure the moments I do have with her are quality moments.
- I want to get in a good breakfast. I talk more about this next, but in short, when any of us is rushed, we make compromising decisions. So, I want to make sure I have adequate time to prepare a breakfast my body really needs.
- I set aside time every morning dedicated to personal growth, whether that be through reading, writing, praying, or thinking. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it's intentional, promotes growth, and reaches the goals I have in these areas.
- I aim to get in about an hour of work before I ever make it to the office. Once I’m at the office, the demand on my time and attention is high and the majority of my day is dedicated to supporting the team around me and making sure they have what they need. So, the time and focus needed to accomplish what’s on my plate, a lot of times, has to come from elsewhere.
2. Eating a Good Breakfast
I love breakfast. A big bowl of cereal. A nice big slice of coffee cake. Huge, fluffy Belgian waffles.
This is what I’d be eating if I had zero discipline whatsoever, because yum. However, I choose to be better about what I eat as my first meal. I’m not overly strict about my eating, but with breakfast being the most important meal and setting the tone for the rest of the day, I want to make sure I’m giving my body the fuel it needs to start the day right. That said, I eat the same thing every single morning: two scrambled eggs, a fruit of some kind (usually strawberries or blueberries), half of an Ezekiel Bread English muffin, and a cup of tea.
3. Dedicated Time to Reading and Writing
I set aside about 45 minutes every morning as my reading and writing time. I have a goal this year of reading 25 books and of writing once a month. It’s important to me to make time in my daily schedule for activities that are goal-oriented and that keep me constantly learning and improving. Everyday, I’m in front of people as a leader and if I’m not being disciplined in my own goals and growth, then on what authority can I lead others to do so?
4. No Social Media Before 7am
Because I set such aggressive goals with my reading and writing, the only way I was going to reach those was to re-work my time in the morning. Before having these goals, I would wake up around 5am and when I would sit down to breakfast, I would read through my Facebook, scroll through Instagram, or play Words with Friends for 30-45 minutes. After a while, I started to realize just how much time I was dedicating to social media when I could be using the morning to reset from the day before and focus for the day ahead. So, I set some goals for myself in the growth department, started waking up earlier, and made a new rule for myself that social media was off limits until 7am.
5. Listening to Podcasts In the Car
I’m not a huge music person, but I really cherish my relaxing drive time in the car and like taking that time to listen to some of my favorite albums and artists. I also love football, so I enjoy sports radio for a certain portion of the year as well. However, just like above, I started to realize how much time I was spending in the car and what I could be doing to better myself with that time instead. Upon that realization, I decided that I was going to start filling that time listening to some quality podcasts. I focus on ones that promote personal growth, discipline, and good leadership, and I have accumulated a library that I’m really enjoying and getting so much out of. I’ll share my top 5 below so you can check them out and hopefully benefit as well. These are in no particular order:
- EntreLeadership (with Dave Ramsey’s team)
- Jocko Podcast
- Building a Story Brand with Donald Miller
- Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast
- Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast
6. Sticking to My Checklists
I’ve always been a pretty organized person and a great time manager, but it wasn’t until I read the book The Checklist Manifesto that I actually became a huge checklist person. One main point of the book is that even though we’re more than capable of committing a list of simple tasks to memory, checklists are meant to hold the small and obvious items so your mind is freed up to deal with more complex, human issues. Since reading the book, I’ve implemented a couple of checklists into my morning routine. One is to make sure I have everything packed for me and my daughter, Olivia, before we walk out the door. The other is for my workout bag to ensure I have everything I need on the nights I go straight from work to workout. Those may seem like things that don’t warrant checklists, but let me tell you what I’ve never had to deal with. I’ve never had to stop what I was doing and leave work in the middle of the day to go back and get something for Olivia that I forgot. I’ve never had a workout completely derailed because I forgot something as obvious as shoes in my bag.
I don’t love checklists because I like the feeling of checking something off a list; I love checklists because I know that even the smallest responsibilities can have a huge impact on other areas of life, and being diligent with those small items empowers me to be a consistent and dependable person in every area.
The start of your day will most certainly have a domino effect on the rest of it. If you choose to start it by oversleeping, franticly getting ready, and rushing out the door, then you’ll likely remain unfocused and irritated the rest of the day. But if you choose to start it with good disciplines, you’ll continue to make better choices that empower you to design your day the way you want it go.